Lee Cataluna: We Don't Mind Standing In Line In Hawaii — If We Want To - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Lee Cataluna

Lee Cataluna is a columnist for Civil Beat. You can reach her by email at lcataluna@civilbeat.org

No one should be surprised that Hawaii voters stood in line for hours on a humid November evening to cast a vote.

Hawaii people will stand in line for anything.

Well, no, that’s not true. Some people see a line and keep driving. They get to the grand opening of a new store or the premiere night of a movie, find an unexpectedly long line of people waiting to get in and mutter, “Hell no” and switch to Plan B.

But many others see a long queue and go, “Ooh! A line! Wonder what that’s for? Must be something good! I’m in!” 

Hawaii’s tolerance for long lines is, for some, a source of pride in the ability to outlast an uncomfortable wait. It makes the prize at the end of that line even sweeter, and the ordeal itself becomes a story of heroism to tell for years to come.

Need examples?

For years, the infamous line to register children for the Manoa District Park Summer Fun program has been an event all in its own right. The first person in line may wait 24 hours or more. Parents camp overnight. They bring dinner and breakfast, books to read and games to play. It is a testament to parental dedication and urban “glamping”.

Every time a restaurant chain opens its first location in Hawaii, there are local residents lining up outside on the first day. I just heard the story of a person who was second in line for the new Olive Garden. She happily waited three hours for breadsticks.

There was a time several years back when a Japanese cream puff company set up a pop-up shop in Ala Moana and people were gleefully taking the day off from work or calling in sick to stand in a line that snaked all around the old Shirokiya, down the escalator and out the door. (Those were good cream puffs, tho …)

People continue to stand in a long line to cast their ballots at the Honolulu Hale after sunset on Electon Day, Tuesday, November 3, 2020. (Ronen Zilberman photo Civil Beat)
Scores of voters waited for hours outside of Honolulu Hale Tuesday. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2020

Then there’s the annual $.52 L&L Hawaiian Barbeque plate lunch day. On that special day (sadly, cancelled this year) people line up by the hundreds for chicken katsu, kalua pig with cabbage or hamburger steak.

There have been legendary lines at the Blaisdell for concert tickets; lines for the bathrooms at the concert event, lines to get into and out of the Stan Sheriff to watch the Wahine play volleyball. There are people who get paid to stand in line for someone who wants to buy a unit in a new condo.

Is line-love uniquely a Hawaii thing?

No, but those who live here are definitely trained for this. A rite of passage into adulthood is getting that first drivers license, earned in part by standing in line to wait for a DMV examiner. People who went to UH Manoa back in the day have epic stories of lining up in Klum Gym to register for classes, though none of those stories are about success, only endurance and surviving disappointment. We line up to buy imported Christmas trees, line up for Costco gas, line up to get out of the Hawaiian Airlines plane the second the wheels hit the tarmac because somehow it’s better to be standing in line than to sit for 5 extra minutes after a 20 minute flight … then line up outside the first bathroom in the airport terminal.

Hawaii people know how to wait. It is a way of life in a small place with a lot of people, frequent crowds and limited resources.

Hawaii residents have years of practice standing in line. There are refined waiting techniques, hardened calf muscles, special line-standing comfy shoes and easy-to-pack folding chairs, smooth ways of making conversation and bonding with others also waiting in line, tag-teams and group efforts. Hawaii people know how to wait. It is a way of life in a small place with a lot of people, frequent crowds and limited resources.

The waiting game is not always about lemming-like resignation. It is often about a dogged devotion to a goal.

No one should be surprised that Hawaii voters stood in line for hours Tuesday night to vote, least of all elections officials. There were so many reasons, including a distrust of mail-in ballots and the fact that for many, a line is not a deterrent.

So why weren’t they more ready? If you give Hawaii people an option to do something in person that could otherwise be accomplished online or through the mail, there will always, always be the die-hards who want to show up and save a stamp and have that IRL experience. Ask the utility companies who still offer walk-up monthly bill-paying. Ask the banks how many customers bypass the fancy ATMS outside the building to stand in line to interact with a teller. 

It’s ridiculous that Hawaii’s first election results weren’t released until after 11 p.m. but it’s also not much of a surprise that so many people wanted to vote in person. Getting to cast a vote at the end of a long line is more meaningful than a 52-cent plate of chicken katsu. Or, at least, it’s comparable.

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About the Author

Lee Cataluna

Lee Cataluna is a columnist for Civil Beat. You can reach her by email at lcataluna@civilbeat.org

Latest Comments (0)

Remember K-Mart in Iwilei......the lines started the night before.  Lee Cataluna you always get Ê»um!Ann

Ann · 2 years ago

Olive Garden some years back was soooo good.  Now, not so much.. (sadface)  Better Italian is Assagio's.

pueobeach · 2 years ago

As usual, Lee Cataluna hits a topic right on da kinipopo with fact, logic and humor. The long lines in sweltering Klum gym  to register for UH classes, only to find the course you needed was full, except for MWF at 8 (or was it 7:30?) Of course, you could go to the "Help" desk and wait in another line to put your name on a - wait list. in case someone dropped out in the first two weeks.  The long lines for concert tickets at the HIC (later Blaisdell.) People would show up the night before the box office opened. Remember the Crater Festivals inside Diamond Head? Folks would leave their cars as far back as Kapiolani Park and stand in line all the way up Monsarrat hill. And who can forget the joy in the early '70s of waking up in the wee hours, driving to the gas station before the employees got there, in hopes of getting your ration of fuel? Those days are gone, right? Uh, not exactly. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, we would line up at stores whenever a major storm was coming for the basics: Rice, SPAM, TP, bottled water and beer. Also batteries and charcoal, in case power went out! Wait in line to vote? Piece of cake! 

honopic · 2 years ago

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